Thursday, March 18, 2010

Long Live the Rat Race

10 years ago out of curiosity when teaching a primary class, I calculated how much time *I* had available to the individual kids. Once I subtracted time spent at lunch, assemblies, lining up, management, and the time they were away at library, PE, music, LOTE, RE, interschool sport etc... it worked out that as a group they were getting about 3.5 hours a day but if you looked at this as individual time it was below 7 minutes per child per day.  Ouch!  The amount of time kids actually received from me was even lower because we wasted so much time on marking the homework, revising, getting cranky, and fulfilling other people's agendas.

Tonight I am thinking about how much time is spent schooling. On top of their 30 hour school week, there is time spent on travelling and homework - anywhere between 3 and 30 hours per week depending on where you live and how much homework you get. So the average kid is doing a 40 hour week.

Compare this to home schooling where a child gets one-on-one for as long as they need it. They also complete their work in 3 hours a day. There is no travel or homework. This gives them a 15 hour week with plenty of one-on-one time. All that extra time is liberated for family, friends, personal interests and real work. Home schooling is definitely a good lifestyle choice!

The above rant was inspired by The Camp Creek Blog - courtesy of the Anti-Rat who linked to the site.


  1. Teaching and learning are no different for five year olds, fifteen or forty five year olds - there is no direct pouring of knowledge between student and teacher nor ratio of minutes that is optimum, rather the creating of conditions under which students can best learn. in my early teaching years i became very aware that the kids learned in spite of the mistakes i made (and continue to do in spite of my best efforts). There was no guarantee that i was 'right' for all of them all of the time. Children should learn as a result of interacting with many highly skilled adults as well as their peers, family and friends for a broad understanding in a variety of contexts. The idea is that they develop the skills to enquire effectively and become that old gem 'lifelong learners'. Just as a parent (single or coupled) can love and raise many children with relatively little one on one, so can students learn over years of interacting with skilled teachers and sharing them with other students. Your anti-rat mate seems just plain anti. His counting of time is way too simplistic for the reality of life and severely under estimates the ability of people. The trick is to trust that each teacher has something to offer your child and that it is ok for that to be different to what you offer in the home. You have the right idea yourself in what you do for students in the way you reach reluctant learners by connecting through their interests and stimulating their curiosity about new ideas. If only parents saw themselves as partners in education and complemented learning instead of handing kids over to the school we'd all be better off - and the kids would be the biggest winners! As for time spent on a bus, that's a parent's choice made on behalf of the child about where to live and how to get there. Thus ends my ranting!

  2. I nearly got chucked out of uni for saying that kids seemed to learn in spite of their teachers ;-)

    I counted my minutes available to kids because we were always exhorted to individualise the curriculum and I was wondering how much time we actually had available put into an individual child. No, time-with-kid does not equate to individualised programs but you DO need to spend real time with them to properly understand them.

    Personally I LIKE school. I enjoyed it as a kid. I thought most of my teachers were great - I just hated the people I had to go to school with. They were all such irritating time wasters and I really thought we could get on with it and progress a lot faster and then I could have a whole heap more time to myself. I had sooo many projects on the go at home I had a hard time finishing them.

    Personaly I would like to relegate school to just mornings. Arrive at 8, 2 hours hard work, 1/2 hour break, 2 more hours and then off home for lunch and a siesta (the Latins do it, why can't we?) The whole afternoon is available for sport, housework, hobbies...whatever :-)

    Wouldn't it be great? Mountain Creek, as you probably know have already started something similar.

    The Anti-rate's blog is this one:
    She's not anti-school - it's just not an option for her where she lives and like me - she adores hr kids, manages them well and values her time with them and understands they need their time to follow their own interests.

    I don't know who Camp Creek Blog is but they certainly generate controversy.

    To each his own.

  3. God I'd love a shorter school day and better use of my time! That after lunch block is lost - yes much better used as siesta. Don't know who thought of 9-3 (or longer for workers) as 'right' but the fact that we talk about work-life balance indicates we aren't all that happy with it. Of course it could be worse and we could be at school on weekends too. We've moved to optional homework at our place and the homework grid rather than the old fashioned model. Seems to make some happier.....

  4. We use the English model where the work day follows their weather (thus "Mad dogs and Englishmen!" ;-)). Last year my friend in London emailed me moaning about how dreadful it was not being able to see the sun at all because she was teaching in a classroom without windows (?!). She would arrive in the dark and leave in the dark. If there was sun during the day - she didn't get to see it.

  5. Hmmm, I probably am anti-school you know. I can't see any positives in it for my kids, although the state funded babysitting is definitely tempting sometimes!

    From the Anti-Rat, most definitely not a him!